Original fic: Vituality
Wow, has it been forever since I posted fic. I haven’t actually finished anything since September and spent the last month working on just my NaNo (which ate my brain).
I bring you more original fic of the sci-fi variety (because I’ve been reading all to much young adult dystopian fiction lately).
by jennickels (aka Jen Connelly)
In the distant future when things are planned and scheduled for maximum efficiency and satisfaction, a woman wonders if this is what life was really meant to be.
The screen blinked at her as soon as she entered her quarters. Coal stared at it a moment before closing the door and removing her jacket. Tired but resigned, she sat at her console, her reflection staring back at her. Her mind blanked as she pulled her jet-black hair, the reason for her name, from the clip at her neck, letting it fall around her face. She felt nothing for her hair. It was just hair.
The screen beeped as the night’s options lit up.
option 1: FOOD CUBE A
option 2: VIRTUAL stuffed cabbage with max-nut-sup
option 1: VINCENZA, discuss troubles
option 2: INTIMATE time with ZAY
option 1: DREAMLESS
option 2: DREAM
Coal considered the questions with the same indifference she did her hair. It was Tuesday which meant almost nothing to her. She worked seven days a week, ten hours a day. All days were the same. But if it were Tuesday it meant she had last spoken to her dear friend, Vincenza, one week ago. They scheduled a social hour every week to discuss troubles. It was mandatory in the schedule.
Intimate time was also mandatory. Zay, her spouse, must have requested the time. They weren’t scheduled for a coupling for another week. Coupling once every three weeks was found to be satisfactory for both parties and non-intrusive to the schedule. Requesting an earlier meeting was allowed but if done too often it would raise flags, bringing the authorities in to evaluate your synapses.
Coal tapped the table next to the screen then realized what she was doing and stilled her hand. None of these decisions meant anything. She reached up and tapped the first event, choosing option number two. She preferred virtual meals to the tasteless, gritty food cubes. Not that Coal should have such a strong opinion on either. She ignored the thought, tapping the social event. It grew larger on the screen, waiting for her response. Without any more thought she chose option number two again.
Another screen popped up with more choices. This was common. If she had chosen option one a screen with discussion topics would have appeared. She scrolled through the dozen or so scenarios they could experience in their hour together. Zay preferred to choose things that appealed only to himself. Coal found that distasteful but would never voice that opinion out loud. Since Zay had proposed the meeting she was allowed to choose all activities pertaining to it. She tapped several that she usually enjoyed, one that she knew Zay would appreciate. She briefly wondered if Zay ever considered the schedule as thoroughly as she did. Did anyone?
A new addition to the list caught her attention.
HAND HOLDING, virtual walk on the beach
They had no beaches in the capital. Coal had never seen a real beach. Holding hands was a physical aspect. Interesting. She thought about what the experience might feel like then discarded it. There wouldn’t be enough time in the evening without asking for a special discrepancy and missing her sleep start. She didn’t think it worth the trouble. She skipped past, choosing “thirty minutes of light coitus” to end the evening. She was sure Zay would accept her proposal.
Sure enough, a second later the screen beeped again letting her know Zay had approved and would be waiting in the common area between their quarters in exactly one hour to begin the night’s events. Coal felt no anxiety or anticipation at the nearness of their meeting. She blinked at the screen then returned to the original menu to finish up her choices. Another dreamless sleep awaited her. She would wake at precisely 0600 hours feeling fully refreshed and ready to start her day at work. Just as it was planned.
A whirl and squeak filled the room before a small door next to the screen opened. Coal picked up the button-sized comp chip. It balanced on the tip of her finger, a complex combination of wires and crystals that transmitted neural information and conditioning. Everyone used them. It was mandatory. Without the comp chips there would be no precision to the day, no schedule to keep them moving from one activity to the next. Coal wondered what that would be like, and just as quickly, pushed the thought away. There was no point pondering such absurdities.
She placed the chip on the receiver port just behind her left ear. Instantly, she felt a surge of energy and an overwhelming hunger. Her stomach growled at the thought of dinner, the smell of stuffed cabbage filling her nostrils and making her salivate. Coal smiled. There was no actual food of course. The experience and reaction were completely simulated for maximum efficiency and satisfaction. But Coal didn’t care. She got up and walked to the nutrition station next to the door.
With a press of her thumb to the security pad the screen came to life instructing her to insert her arm into the receptacle. She did. A small needle pricked a spot on her forearm. The receptacle remembered every spot it used, never sticking the same once twice in one year. Some people disliked the pain involved with virtual food, choosing to eat the food cubes instead. Coal didn’t mind. She barely noticed any more.
The comp chip dictated the rest of her evening, compelling her into the shower for ten minutes where she efficiently washed her hair and body, dried and exited. Then she began her preparations. Still wrapped in her towel she used the hair dryer on her hair then brushed it exactly one hundred strokes. She reached for her clip but jerked back. Zay like her hair curled and flowing around her face. Her hand inched towards the clip again but ultimately she relented and let the programing in the comp chip move her hands in a sure fashion with the hot curler.
She then visited her clothery, the options for the night hanging right in the front. Zay had preapproved two outfits. Coal stared at them with disinterested eyes, picking up the one on the right. The dress was silk, to her knee with a slit up the one side and intricate bead work on the bodice. It was a good choice. The color, a rich mauve, looked good on her skin. Not that it was important. The minutes of preparation time slid by without any more thoughts.
At exactly 2100 hours she exited her quarters, dressed, quaffed and done up. Just like Zay liked. He smiled from his doorway. That was a specification she requested years ago otherwise he showed no emotion. Just like Coal. And that bothered her even if she’d never admit it.
Later that night, as she lie under Zay as he methodically pumped in and out of her with small grunts and barely audible groans of appreciation, she wondered if this was how life had always been. Efficient, predictable, organized. Scheduled. The authorities spoke about the time before schedules when things were chaotic and people made bad decisions that lead to suffering and death.
But was life really as bad as they said back then? Would it be so horrible to change your mind in the middle of a scheduled event? What if she made her own choices? Real choices, not the options that accompanied many scheduled events. What if, right now, she chose to get up and start dancing around the room? What would that be like?
Her fingers brushed against the comp chip in her neck, fingers twitching. Zay noticed nothing but his own experience. What if Coal could feel what Zay did? What if she actually enjoyed their coupling the way she imagined he did? Her face fell away from her spouse to stare at the wall in the distance.
What would that life be like?